One could argue it’s part of the Flowers Sea Swim legacy.
A year after competing in one of Cayman’s biggest sports events, Alex Meyer is headed to the Olympics. The American has qualified for the 2012 London Olympics after placing fourth in the 2011 world championships last week in Shanghai, China.
The New York native sported a time 8.4 seconds off the mark of Greek top qualifier Spyridon Gianniotis at Jinshan Beach. Meyer, whose Flowers event record was broken this year, states he was motivated by the recent death of his team-mate and room-mate Fran Crippen.
“My main goal going there was to make the Olympic team,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet moment because Fran’s not here. That was a dream we shared to go to the Olympics together and it’s not going to happen now.”
Crippen died during a FINA 10 kilometre event off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Meyer was the first to notice that Crippen had not finished the race and he initiated the search and rescue swimmers, who had just finished their 10km swim. Since Crippen’s death, Meyer has carried a photograph of Crippen, who was from Pennsylvania, to every race.
Meyer, the 2010 world champion, was the top American swimmer at the China race. The other high finishers were Germany’s Thomas Lurz, Russia’s Sergey Bolshakov, Australia’s Ky Hurst, Spain’s Francisco Hervas Jodar, Belgium’s Brian Ryckeman, France’s Julien Sauvage, Russian Vladimir Dyatchin and German Andreas Waschburger. All will join Meyer in London where they will compete in the Olympic Marathon 10km event.
Interestingly top qualifier Gianniotis, 31, compared open water swimming to the Olympic (running) marathon and the Tour de France of cycling.
“Lots of training and experience is necessary before one can be a successful open water swimmer,” Gianniotis said. “The older you get the better you are able to compete and to keep your mind focused. This is hard to do when you are younger.
“When I started in the sport I thought I could race a strong 7.5km and then endure the “hell” of the last 2.5km. I am a guy now who waits and keeps his mind focused and maintains my strength. For me the best tactic is to keep my energy for the sprint. It can’t be a sprint for 1000m, but sometimes it feels like it is.
“In the race I felt uncomfortable, due to the water temperature, for the first 6km. I was frustrated with the elbows and the contact while debating with myself ‘I can, I cannot, I can.’ But when I picked up the pace at the 8km I just felt stronger and I was eager to qualify for London. As I felt better and better I thought I would race for a medal.”
The final round of Olympic qualifying, for the remaining 15 spots, will be at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal on 9-10 June 2012. An athlete from the Olympic host nation automatically qualifies with the fastest from each of the five continents claiming an Olympic berth. The rest of the positions will be filled by the fastest athletes from the qualifier.